Christchurch Stadium organisation faultless

02:05, Mar 26 2012

"Does this bus take us all the way to the Christchurch Stadium?" I asked the driver, who nodded and looked at me piteously when I asked him which stop we should get off at.

He jerked his head back toward the coach, positively groaning with footy fans as we plonked down in the last two seats and got talking to a woman of a certain age who told me proudly, and in front of her male consort, that she was the president of the Rugby Bum Appreciation Society and was looking forward to seeing Dan Carter's rear end.

I couldn't help but imagine what if it was the other way round, that netball was our destination and her husband had informed me he was the president of the Netball Tit and Bum Appreciation Society? I could have justifiably slapped him round the head with a wet bus ticket and the jury would have found me not guilty on the grievous bodily harm count and given me a medal for fighting sexism in the streets.

But hey, lighten up, who cares, the weather was so balmy it could have been mid-January as I cursed myself for gloomily lugging along a jacket in case it rained in the uncovered cheap seats.

I'd had some difficulty in procuring the tickets which were supposed to be sent via email pronto so I could print them out, and after phoning TicketDirect three times to give them the hurry-up thought "yeah, right" when they said the to and fro bus rides were gratis.

Oh, ye of little faith, the bus rides were free and I've got to say the organisation at the Christchurch Stadium for the inaugural game of Crusaders v Cheetahs was faultless.


We easily navigated our way to our seats in the eastern block behind the goalpost and sat down next to a pair of silent rubes who took a dim view of our witless girly requests about who it was who had just scored that try, and what was the name of the ref.

Having gaily sailed past several programme hawkers and given them the "Ned Kelly wore a mask" quip at the $5 fee, I deeply regretted not having purchased one to consult. But as luck would have it to our left sat a garrulous rugby mum who proudly boasted of a son in the wider Crusaders pool who she said had slept with his rugby ball since birth and in his first words vowed to become an All Black. Cor, talk about destiny in the making.

She was only too happy to fill us in on all the details including the info that Todd Blackadder is a humourless but deeply respected hard taskmaster, and that Richie McCaw is currently sheila-free as we watched St Dan Carter limber up in front of us, swinging that golden leg up back and forth as the crowd oohed and aahed at the legend, creating an adulatory distraction to the struggle going down on the pitch.

But I'm getting ahead of myself. I'd bought the tickets because ever since the news hit that the old AMI Stadium was kaput I'd cursed myself for never having attended a single match, to witness the legendary spectacle of the Crusader horsemen galloping round the paddock in full fig. Call me old-fashioned but I'd love to be a time traveller, not onward to the future but back to the glorious past, ideally 20 years younger and armed with contraception, penicillin and a pair of thermal socks.

So imagine my unbridled joy sitting in the new stadium, which I have to say is just the right size, not so big as to make you feel like an ant, as the sun sank down over the south stand and a lone rider emerged from the north corner to do a lap, followed by the charge of a light brigade pulling up at junctures to thrust their swords at the fans.

And the crowd went wild as we furiously waved our free red Crusaders flags for all they were worth and stomped our feet looking across admiringly at each others' full to bursting with pride stands swirling in a furl of red that would bring a tear to Chairman Mao's eye.

There was a minute's silence in respect of the late Jock Hobbs as a helicopter broke the mood, annoyingly buzzing overhead, and then the first game of the new Christchurch Stadium kicked off. (Does it really have to have a sponsor's name on it? Can't it be the Jock Hobbs Stadium?)

The last time I attended a Canterbury rugby match was with my father and grandfather at Lancaster Park to watch the great Fergie McCormick, as Dad told me to keep my eye on the ball and to stop staring incredulously at grown men urinating into cans then watching them bounce down the slope of the steps.

No need for that sort of carry-on with this stadium with toilets aplenty only a hop skip and jump away, and bar and food queues mercifully short, so efficient is the organisation. Looking around us it was heartening to see that the crowd wasn't made up of mostly men but of mums with their small sons, groups of girls, dads shepherding various small fry, it was overwhelmingly a family occasion with not a whiff of hooliganism.

In the first half the crowd made a pretty good fist of doing a Mexican wave as the south stand confirmed themselves as the most boisterous, but by the second half the crowd, basking in a muggy night seemed to fall into a happy torpor. Even when the score was 21-all I don't think there was a person in that crowd who wouldn't have forgiven the Crusaders for losing, but they plugged on and saved the day.

What a perfect day, on a perfect pitch the only "bum" note was the awful Taylor Swift-type music playing at injury time.

Where's Leonard Cohen when you need him?

The Press